Bono is a transgender man. In 1995, several years after being outed as lesbian by the tabloid press, he publicly self-identified as such in a cover story in a leading American gay monthly magazine, The Advocate, eventually going on to discuss the process of coming out to oneself and to others in two books. Family Outing: A Guide to the Coming Out Process for Gays, Lesbians, and Their Families (1998) includes his coming out account. The memoir The End of Innocence (2003) discusses his outing, music career, and partner Joan's death from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Between 2008 and 2010, Bono underwent female-to-male gender transition. A two-part Entertainment Tonight feature in June 2009 explained that his transition had started a year before. In May 2010, he legally changed his gender and name. A documentary on Bono's experience, Becoming Chaz, was screened at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and later made its television debut on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
Bono is the only child of Cher and Sonny Bono of the pop duo Sonny & Cher, stars of a TV variety show on which the young child often appeared. Bono was named Chastity Sun Bono after the film Chastity, which was produced by Sonny and in which Cher (in her first feature film) played a bisexual woman.
Bono came out to both parents as lesbian at age 18. In Family Outing, Bono wrote that, "as a child, I always felt there was something different about me. I'd look at other girls my age and feel perplexed by their obvious interest in the latest fashion, which boy in class was the cutest, and who looked the most like cover girl Christie Brinkley. When I was 13, I finally found a name for exactly how I was different. I realized I was gay."
Bono began a short music career with the band Ceremony, which released one album, Hang Out Your Poetry, in 1993. The band featured Bono on vocals, acoustic guitar, and percussion. Other members were Steve March Tormé (backup vocals), Heidi Shink a.k.a. Chance, Pete McRae, Steve Bauman, Louis Ruiz, and Bryn Mathieu. All but one of the band's songs were written or co-written by Bono, Shink, and Mark Hudson. They used no synthesizers or digital effects on the album; Shink noted, "We turned our back on technology. [ ... ] It's reminiscent of the 60s, but more a tip of the hat than emulating it. We took the music we love and rejuvenated it, made it 90s."
The songs "Could've Been Love" and "Ready for Love" were released as singles from the album.
Sonny and Cher recorded backing vocals (uncredited) for the last song. As well as the 14 songs listed here, a 15th track, "One World", was released as a B-side to the "Could've Been Love" single.
In April 1995, Bono came out as lesbian in an interview with The Advocate, a national gay and lesbian magazine. The 1998 book Family Outing detailed how Bono's coming out "catapulted me into a political role that has transformed my life, providing me with affirmation as a lesbian, as a woman, and as an individual." In the same book, Bono reported that Cher, who was both a gay icon and ally to LGBT communities, was quite uncomfortable with the news at first and "went ballistic" before coming to terms with it: "By August 1996, one year after I came out publicly, my mother had progressed so far that she agreed to 'come out' herself on the cover of The Advocate as the proud mother of a lesbian daughter." Cher has since become an outspoken LGBT rights activist.
Bono's paternal relationship became strained after Sonny became a Republican Congressman from California. The differences in their political views separated them, and the two had not spoken for more than a year at the time of Sonny's fatal skiing accident in January 1998.
Bono worked as a writer at large for The Advocate. As a social activist, Bono became a spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, promoted National Coming Out Day, campaigned for the reelection of Bill Clinton for US President, campaigned against the Defense of Marriage Act, and served as Entertainment Media Director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Bono was a team captain for Celebrity Fit Club 3 (2006) and was supported by girlfriend Jennifer Elia, who orchestrated exercise and training sessions.
In mid-2008, Bono began undergoing a physical and social gender transition from female to male. This was confirmed in June 2009 by his publicist, who identified Bono's preferred name as Chaz Bono and said, "It is Chaz's hope that his choice to transition will open the hearts and minds of the public regarding this issue, just as his coming out did." GLAAD and the Empowering Spirits Foundation were quick to offer praise and support for the announcement. Bono's legal transition was completed on May 8, 2010, when a California court granted his request for a gender and name change. He chose the name "Chaz Salvatore Bono" in honor of his parents. Bono made Becoming Chaz, a documentary film about his gender transition that premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network acquired the rights to the documentary and debuted it on May 10, 2011.
In September 2011, he became a competitor on the 13th season of the US version of Dancing with the Stars, paired with professional ballroom dancer Lacey Schwimmer. The duo was eliminated October 25, 2011.
Transition: Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be by Chaz Bono and Billie Fitzpatrick
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (May 29, 2012)
Amazon: Transition: Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be
Amazon Kindle: Transition: Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be
The New York Times bestseller that asks: What happens on the journey from self-doubt to self-acceptance?
Imagine knowing, for decades, that the person you are and the body you inhabit don’t match up. Imagine pushing that feeling down so deep that you convince yourself, for years, that it doesn’t even exist. Imagine the havoc wreaked by such a secret.
Now, imagine living this life under the scrutiny of the public eye.
Chaz Bono has lived this life. We first met him as Chastity, the darling girl on stage with her parents, Sonny and Cher. Then, we knew her as an out lesbian and gay activist. Through all of this, Chaz was plagued by a nagging feeling that he wasn’t living the life meant for him. It wasn’t until he admitted, first to himself, then to his family, and finally to the world, that he was a transgender man, that Chaz Bono fully embraced his true self. In Transition, Chaz shares his deeply moving and ultimately triumphant account of the physical and emotional process that brought him to a place of peace, and finally happiness. With a message to anyone who has ever felt that they couldn’t be who they really are, Transition is as inspirational as it is intimate.
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Persistent Voices
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